Author: Theresa Scholes

International Historic Gardens

International Historic Gardens

Presentation by Jeff de Jong        December 1, 2015

Jeff de Jong leads garden tours around the world. He gave an overview of historical garden design trends and how they influence our gardens today. His highly informative and entertaining presentation included the design of ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Japanese gardens.

The Egyptians were the first leave a record of their ancient gardens which were outdoor living spaces shielded from the sun and edible. Growing conditions were severe so the design called for walled gardens for protection and straight line planting rows to facilitate irrigation. Grapes were grown under pergolas to protect them from the sun. Everything in the garden served a purpose, providing food, medicines, funerary preservatives, perfumes and drink (wine). Water features held fish and water fowl to supplement their diet.

Roman gardens were heavily influenced by Egyptian design but were not as utilitarian. The Romans wanted to be delighted, amazed and inspired by their gardens, and used hardscapes such as statuary, water features and pergolas. They followed the straight line planting method of the Egyptians using the aqueducts for irrigation. They grew food in containers and used silks to soften the hardscape features. Being able to irrigate showed status and wealth. While these gardens were only for the rich they were careful to show only to the extent required to portray that they were doing well. The Italian garden at Royal Roads University showcases many of these design features.

Chinese gardens reflect their reverence for the natural landscape – mountains, rivers and lakes. A design trick to make small gardens feel bigger is to use a small scale. Openings such as moon gates frame a small scene that is reflective of the larger garden within. Whether a garden is small or large, the same elements are included – only the scale is changed. They use decorative stonework on paths and are masters at using a borrowed landscape to make a small garden seem larger. Chinese gardens use water lavishly which usually provides a home for colourful fish. They use colour on garden structures with red being most auspicious. Paths are made to look like a river and zigzag bridges are used to keep out evil spirits.

Japanese gardens remind us that we are “human beings not humans doing”. They use Prunus, pine and bamboo to create visual appeal throughout the year. Japan originally borrowed from Chinese designs but evolved quite a different style that is in keeping with Japanese culture. Statuary in the form of Pagodas was adopted from India. The greenness of Japanese gardens helps to restore energy and produce feelings of tranquility. Gravel or sand is used to represent water and raked to create that effect. Cherry and plum blossoms are considered good luck and if blossoms fall on your head you are very lucky indeed.

We have Louis XIV of France to thank, or blame, for ubiquitous lawns even when conditions would dictate otherwise. The Garden of Versailles begun in 1662 popularized lawns and revolutionized garden design. These first lawns were a symbol of prestige because they required hand grooming and many people to attend them. The grass seed came from China and Louis grew it in large patterned areas. The point of the garden at Versailles was to show that nature could be controlled. We gardeners know better, don’t we!

 (The December meeting was a special social event.  No workshop was held.)

Gardening at Butchart Gardens; Making Wreathes

Presentation:  Gardening at The Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens – Behind the Scenes: presented by Carlos Moniz, Horticultural Manager.

Managing plantings in a garden with the scope and size of Butchart Gardens is no small undertaking, 300,000 plants are used each summer, and beds are replanted 2 to 3 times per season taking three weeks to change over all the beds in the garden. The garden contains 70 varieties of begonias, 40 varieties of impatiens, 135 varieties of dahlias and 300,000 bulbs. All of the plant materials come from seeds, plugs or in-house cuttings. There are 24 greenhouses covering 2 acres and they have 11 suppliers of plugs.

The previous year is reviewed and evaluated to determine which combinations worked and which did not. All the beds are mapped and a list of all plants that will be required for the next year is created.   The list is divided into 3 categories: those grown from seed, from plugs and from cuttings. This list directs the greenhouse staff in preparing a sowing schedule for the year. The plugs list is compiled and purchase requests are sent to the various suppliers. The propagation staff look after all the plants produced from cuttings and a schedule is created to ensure plants are ready for beds when they are needed.

Plants such as scented heliotrope that are no longer available from suppliers are reproduced from cuttings. To maintain this plant cuttings are taken each year and rooted using a mix of compost, peat and a soilless product such as perlite. Nine hundred standard Fuchsia plants along with Heliotrope and Abutilons are overwintered in the greenhouse. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to control insects in the greenhouses includes Encarsia (tiny parasitic wasps) used to control white fly and Cucumeris another bionomic used to control mites and thrips.

Dahlia tubers are dug up and stored in a warm shed until January when they are cleaned and potted in flats. Watering then begins causing the tubers to put out shoots which are cut off and rooted in large flats. This method of taking cuttings gives more consistency than replanting the tubers themselves. Two favourite Dahlias of Carlos are Belle of the Ball and Bodacious

Carlos Moniz’s favourites:

Begonia solenia,  Calla Lilly,  Celosia big chief – a taller variety and Celosia fashion look mix – for bright colours,  Gomphrena fireworks,  impatiens bounce and cherry,  Iochroma Cyanea – a shrub-like plant with 2” long tubular flowers loved by hummingbirds,  Ipomea illusion midnight lace,  Lantana landmark &Sunrise Rose combination,  Lobelia starship scarlet,  Narcissus apricot whirl, replete and unique (double peony types),  New Guinea impatiens – super sonic orange ice used in a bed alone and in combination,  Pineapple Sage,  Pinks with Euphorbia stardust white flash,  Salvia hot lips,  Sweetunia – black satin and Johnny flame,  Tuberous Begonia picotee lace,  Tulip – Canasta and yellow crown

Workshop: Making Wreathes from your garden

Making a Wreath:

Linda Dowling – Happy Valley Herb Farm

Making wreaths and swags is a creative venture and you are limited only by your imagination and plant materials.


  1. Some type of frame: It can be cane, willow or metal wire. A sturdy or firm base allows you to build a larger display without bending or drooping. Michaels and craft departments in major stores all have wreath frames available.
  2. Dry and/or wet oasis. Dry oasis will not absorb water and is used to hold plants in place. Wet oasis holds water for fresh plant material and is used for an arrangement rather than a wreath.
  3. Zap straps make a good holder because it will not scratch the door or wall when hung.
  4. Over-the-door handles provide a hook on a door where you don’t want to mount a hook.
  5. Tiny battery-powered light strings can be used on wreaths add a little bling and are available at various stores.
  6. Wrapped wire to make items where you don’t want the wire to show.
  7. Glue gun.
  8. Moss that has been cleaned and sterilized and soaked in water so that it is damp.

 Making a swag: Scout out materials from your own garden and the gardens of friends to source a wide variety of materials. Cut them much longer than needed for the wreath and then cut to specific lengths when you are ready to start. Be discreet when picking materials from the garden making invisible cuts, leaving the plant, tree or bush looking good.  Some materials that work well in swags: Honeysuckle nitida, Arbutus Unedo (strawberry tree), St. John’s wort, ivy, rose hips on a branch, and Holly. Hold the stems from the bottom with the tops hanging down. Add tallest at the back combining colour, shape and texture as you go along with lengths of material getting shorter as you move down the swag. When finished, cut the ends to a common length. Tighten the base and tie securely with wire. Thread a zap strap up under the wire (as a holder) before completing the swag by adding a ribbon and/or bow.

 Making a wreath: Some popular plant materials that lend themselves to a wreath are: Cedar, Fir, Holly – green & variegated, Gary eliptica, Rose hips on a stem, Ivy – green and variegated, Arbutus unedo, Pine, Holly leaved Osmanthus (burkwoodii) and Bay leaf.

Other materials you will need are: a wire frame filled with moss and 6+ yards of ribbon. Cut plant materials you have collected into similar lengths. Use materials that vary in shape, colour and texture for interest. Start by attaching the ribbon to the frame and from there it will be used to wrap the bunches as they are added. Put together small bunches of the cuttings and tuck the central stems toward the middle of the wreath. Cover each section well and secure in place by wrapping with ribbon before proceeding to the next section. Use ordinary or plain foliage at the back with the special or more ornate foliage on top so the plain will highlight the ornamental. Place accent plants at only a few intervals around the wreath so as not to overdo it and spoil the affect. If you add fresh flowers for a special occasion, insert them after the wreath is completed so they can be taken out when they die back. You can make a seasonal wreath with some autumn colours and then add Christmas baubles with a glue gun closer to Christmas time.

Wreaths will last a long time. They will become browner but will still be attractive. When hung on an outside door they last longer. Indoors a wreath can be sprayed with water to keep them fresh longer. To help wreaths keep their shape and prevent plant materials from drooping, let them sit flat over an upturned bowl for a week or so until they have dried a little and will hold their shape when hung.

Spiders; Winter Containers

Presentation:   British Columbia’s Spider Diversity

Claudia Copley, Royal B.C. Museum Entomology Collections Manager and Researcher.

Fact or Fiction?

  • Are spiders insects? No. Insects have six legs and three main body parts (head, thorax, abdomen).       Spiders are arachnids which have 8 legs and two body parts. Spiders do not have wings or antennae and are not able to chew.
  • Do all spiders make webs?   All can make silk but not all make webs. Some pounce on their prey rather than catching it in a web. Silk is expensive for spiders as it is made of protein. To prevent protein depletion they eat their webs and their siblings.
  • Do spiders come into the house in the autumn to get out of the cold? No. They hatch as tiny spiders in the spring, and are still relatively small in the summer, but by autumn they are larger and more noticeable. They stumble into your house looking for a mate. A house maintained to Energuide insulation standards will keep them out for the most part.
  • Do spiders come up through the sink or bathtub? No. They fall into the drains from inside the house.
  • Are spiders in the home a danger to children or pets? No.       House spiders prey on insects – they are not bloodsuckers and have no need to bite humans. House spiders include the Brown House Spider, Cellar Spider and American House Spider and they like to live with people. They have been introduced from Europe. They eat other spiders and live in the corners of the ceiling.       Brown House Spiders are the ones that make the messy webs.
  • Has the Brown Recluse spider bitten people in Greater Victoria? No. There has been no record of this spider in this area.       It lives in South Midwest of the USA.
  • Does the Hobo spider (Tegenararia agrestis) cause necrotic lesions? No.       It is not venomous and is not a house spider, preferring to live in fields.

Common Spiders in our area:

  • Garden Cross spider (Araneus diadematus) – non native.
  • Golden rod spider – a member of the crab spider family and can change its colour from white to yellow.
  • The Woodlouse spider (Dysdera Crocata) – Introduced from Europe with plant materials. It eats wood bugs.
  • Red-backed Jumping spider (Phidippus johnsoni) – Is a venomous spider with showy iridescent fangs and has stereoscopic vision
  • Pacific Folding-door spider (Antrodiaetus pacificus) – local tarantula, is non aggressive and can live for 20 years.
  • Giant House spider (Eratigena atrica) – non-native. Make a funnel shaped web. Not dangerous but appears big because it has such long legs. Introduced from Europe and is very common.
  • False Black Widow (Steatoda grossa). Non-native. Eats big black spiders and has a bite that is like a wasp sting and although not dangerous.
  • Western Black Widow (Latrodectus Hesperus) – like really dry hot places such as logs on the beach and they are here in our area. They are not aggressive and you would have to work hard to get a spider to bite you. The bite injects a neurotoxin and although it does not hurt much it causes muscle contractions. The treatment is usually a muscle relaxant.
  • Filmy dome spider (genus Neriene) – make dome shaped webs under which they hang waiting for their prey. They are almost communal because of the close proximity of the webs.
  • The local Wolf spider is genus Pardosa. They are agile, fast-moving ground predators that are brown in colour but the males can appear black.

Spiders spin silk over long distances by releasing silk that is then blown to an object to which it attaches. The silk is sticky and easily attaches to whatever it touches. The spider then travels partway along the silk thread and starts to build its web.

Note: If at any time you think you have a spider bite it might actually be an infection that needs medical attention. People have very individual reactions to spider bites and some bites such as that of the Western Black Widow, however rare, may require medical treatment.

The number of spider species in BC is 780. A checklist can be found on E-Fauna BC.

Workshop:Winter Containers

by Jennifer Eliason

When creating a winter container consider the size and scope of the available location, exposure to sun and wind, and whether you want the container for the winter only or all year round. This will inform your choices of suitable pots and plant materials.

  1. Choosing a pot: High fired clay pots, fibreglass and good quality plastic tend to be long lasting. In general, more expensive pots last longer and look better. If the location is prominent it is worth investing in a nicer pot. The pot must have good drainage holes in the bottom. A layer of special drainage material in the bottom is not necessary as garden soil is designed to drain. Use a saucer underneath, and feet or a wheeled plant caddy if on a hard surface.
  2. Basic design choices: If you are planning for several years of growth use slow to moderate growing materials. Tap rooted plants don’t fare as well in pots because they hit the bottom and have nowhere to go. Small trees work well in a larger planter. Ensure that the size of the plant material in proportion with the size and shape of pot. Step back from house or patio and see if the size of pot fits with the proportions of the surroundings. If the scale is unbalanced, a grouping of pots might work better.
  3. Soil mix:  A good quality potting mix is needed to sustain the plants over the long term. A mix of soil, peat and perlite works well to hold moisture. A mix of coir (a sustainable soil base), compost and perlite also works. You can add leaf mulch, your own compost, and sea soil. In autumn and winter, plants have a reduced nutrient uptake so a slow release organic fertilizer is most suitable.       Watering is crucial especially if under cover and exposed to winds that can quickly dry out the soil.
  4. Plant materials:
    1. Colour theme: Visit the nurseries to find sales and unusual plants. Plants that have a vigorous growth habit such as Elderberry, Willow, Mock Orange or Nootka Rose do not like to be in pots.       Look for things that are dwarf or “nana”. Drought tolerance is also a good feature for a pot.
    2. Native plants : Some go dormant in a drought so are not great in a pot. Some good choices are: Nodding Onion (Allium cernium), shorter varieties of Camas, Tiger Lily, Armeria and Sedum Spathulifolium. Mix in evergreens for variety and contrasting texture and shapes such as Deer fern (Blechnum spicant), Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) or Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) – (note that maidenhair fern dies back in late Fall). For shady site use – Allum root (Heucera), Coral Bells (Heucera x micrantha), Wintergreen, Bleeding heart (Dicentra), Fairybell (Disporum hookeri) and Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis). For sunny sites use –  Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), Bearberry (Kinnikinick) which has the additional feature of being trailing. Sweetgale/bog myrtle (Myrica gale) is a terrific pot plant, as is the low, slow growing Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) that provides a lovely mix of leaf colouration.
  5. Design considerations:
    1. Drama through height: Have at least one tall and showy plant such as an ornamental grass (e.g.miscanthus , phormium). Do not plant ivy, periwinkle, creeping jenny or lamium because of their invasive qualities.
    2. Four season interest: For a display that looks good all year round try Mountain Pepper (drimys lanceolata) as it is deer proof and has an aromatic leaf growing 8 – 10 feet with white flowers in Spring. Use complementary or contrasting shapes and colours, add trailing plants, then for additional colour and interest tuck in some pansies and basket stuffers. Add a few bulbs such as crocus, snow drops and dwarf narcissus for early Spring interest. Dwarf conifers such as a Yew (taxus) or Goldcress cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) for a golden yellow hew and Pieris Japonica (little heath) or Cornus Mid Winter Fire to provide variegated leaves all summer. The Cornus will provide brightly coloured stems all winter.
  6. Maintenance: In winter a couple of feedings with all purpose long lasting organic fertilizer is all that is required. After a few years you might you want to rework the whole thing because either some of the plantings have outgrown the pot and need to be replaced and dispatched to the garden, or a particular plant is not keeping up its share of the bargain. You can dig out the offending plant with a root trowel if it is not too large.       For a new look simply spill out all the plants, separate them and put it back together again in a more pleasing composition.

Dominion Brook Park / Chrysanthemums

Presentation:   Dominion Brook Park

Workshop:   Chrysanthemums

Sheila Mitchell of the Victoria Chrysanthemum Society presents her video A Year in the Chrysanthemum Garden, covering the annual growing cycle this classic perennial.

Dominion Brook Park

Joan Gibbs from Friends of Dominion Brook Park Society presented pictures and information of Dominion Brook Park, an 11 acre heritage park located at 8801 East Saanich Road (opposite Panorama Recreation centre next to the Centre for Plant Health).

The park was founded in 1912 by the Ministry of Agriculture as part of the Dominion Experimental Farm. W.T. Macoun, Dominion Horticulturalist and design architect of the garden, was instrumental in sourcing plants from Britain, Holland, Germany, France, Japan and the U.S.A. The varied collection of specimens was suitable to an experimental farm. Federal support for the park ceased in the early 1980’s and it became overgrown and hidden under mounds of ivy and blackberry for the next 20 years.

In 2000, in cooperation with the Federal Government and the District of North Saanich, a group of citizens formed a non-profit society and began the gargantuan task of park restoration. It took two seasons to eradicate the ivy. In one location, as it was painstakingly pulled away, a stone bridge was revealed beneath. The Park has a sunken garden with a waterfall originally established in 1940, and a ravine bordered by Rhododendron in the process of being rejuvenated. The next project the Friends of Dominion Brook Park will undertake is restoration of the pond which will be costly in terms of volunteer hours and funding. A key feature of the Park is its many conifers which provide contrast in texture and colour. Many plants came from The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard, and many of those originated in China.

Joan created an extensive inventory and database of plants in the park from hand written cards that documented name, source, date, location planted and growth results on each item planted over the century for the entire farm. Joan found some boxes of ‘old stuff’ part way through this project and discovered original invoices from 1913 and 1914 onward, planting instructions from William Macoun, as well as old photographs from the early years. An inventory from 1975 made the current inventory much easier because it documented which of the original plantings had not survived. It had been an experimental farm and not all of the experiments had been successful. Joan was fortunate to have a friend who worked at the Sidney Museum who found five large leather bound hand written journals containing a listing of each plant received from 1913 into the 1920’s, with notes on survival and growth. These valuable old documents enabled Joan and her team to confirm all but a few the plants in the Park.

Some of the special plantings you will find in the park are:

  • Eucryphia Nymansay ‘Nymansensis’ – blooms in August with wild rose like white flowers. 1958
  • Ligustrum sinense “Stauntoni (Chinese Box) Blooms in May with cream coloured gragrant flowers. Grown in 1964 from cuttings off an earlier plant.
  • Strigillosum, grown from seed collected in China by Ernest Wilson and sent by the Arnold Arboretum in 1913.
  • Berberis, triacanthorphora, grown from seed collected in China by William Purdom and sent by the Arnold Arboretum.
  • Fagus Suylvatica, European Beech, Grown from seed collected at Flanders Field and planted in 1922.

The Garden is available for functions such as picnics and weddings.

  • Easter egg hunts are held every year.
  • Garden tours are offered upon request.
  • While the use of the park is free, it is necessary to book events and group functions in the park through the District of North Saanich.

Volunteer recruitment: If you are interested in helping out, volunteers meet at the park every Wednesday from 9:00 to 11:00 and engage in a variety of activities including blackberry removal, edging, mulching and pruning. Contact:   Phone 250-656-0318 Email:, Website:

Chrysanthemum Workshop

Sheila Mitchell of the Victoria Chrysanthemum Society presented her video A year in the Chrysanthemum Garden that demonstrates how to cultivate Chrysanthemums.

Crysanthemums originated in China. They can no longer be imported to Canada from China, Japan or Britain because of a fungal disease called white rust. Caution is required when propagating and planting cuttings to avoid introducing diseases and molds.

Step 1 –Sept/Oct: Pull plants and cut down to one stem (called a stool) and trim root ball back. Line a container with newspaper and top with 2” soil. Tag the stem and sulphur the cut end to prevent rot or mold. Place containers stuffed with plants in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame but keep above freezing by using a small heater if necessary.

Step 2. Jan-Feb. After a period of dormancy place heating cables under boxes to spur green growth.

Step 3. Feb/Mar: When some green growth appears you are ready to take cuttings.

  • Supplies needed: Rooting stimulation powder, labels, sharp cutting implement, antifungal solution ‘Physan 20’ (available in the US.).
  • Cuttings go into a box lined with remay cloth under which heating cables are placed. Soil mixture is sand and vermiculite kept moist.
  • The Stool will have a number of shoots that formed over the winter. Choose the ones that come from the roots rather than from the stem.
  • Cut the shoot just below a leaf axis using a sharp razor.
  • Take off all leaves except at the tip.
  • Dip cuttings into anti-viral solution (wear rubber gloves).
  • Let dry on paper towel.
  • Dip into rooting hormone.
  • Label with date of the cutting and name of cultivar using a good permanent marker (or grease pencil) that will remain visible throughout the summer.
  • Make a hole and put cutting to bottom of pan and press planting mixture in around the stem. Can be close together but you don’t want air spaces around the cutting.
  • Spray with water to keep them moist.

Step 4 Apr/May: Plant cuttings in garden or planters.

  • Plant in beds together so that they can easily be covered later in the growth cycle. Carefully label plants. Insert stakes at the same time for later use.
  • Disbudding is the cutting off of laterals leaving only one bloom per lateral. This is only for people who are showing their blooms. Disbudding the laterals produces huge blooms for competition. Some Chrysanthemums are called Sprays and consist of multitudes of small blooms which are not pruned.
  • Plants need to be put under cover just as the buds swell to protect from rains because flowers are damaged by rain. The heads of Disbuds will break off if rained on and the petals will burn in the sun if they are wet .
  • Disbuds are groomed before shows using Qtips to make all petals move in the same direction and any discoloured or damaged leaves are removed.

Victoria Chrysanthemum Society originated in 1940 and has meetings Sept through May on the 3rd Thurs of month at St. Mathias Church Hall at 7:30.

On Sept 19th the Society will hold a Parlour Show at Monterey Recreation centre in Oak Bay and every April they hold a sale of 1000 rooted cuttings to the general public at St Mathias Hall. Cuttings are also available one Saturday in the Spring at the Moss street market. More information on these sales can be found on the Facebook page: Chrysanthemum Society.


Presentation: Vertical Garden Design. Workshop: Creations from the Garden

Presentation:   Vertical Garden Design

Manon Temblay presented – Living Walls/Vertical Gardens       MANONTREMB@GMAIL.COM

Manon is a graduate of the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific and has a garden maintenance business. She has taken design courses from the University of Guelph and has researched and designed living walls and vertical gardens over the past 5 years.

Patrick Blanc of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris has become known as the godfather of vertical and living walls after he created a vegetal wall in 2005. In this method, plants are rooted within a structure and the structure is fastened to a wall or other structure. The plants are not rooted in the ground.


  • why are you building this garden?
  • do you want it to be drought tolerant?
  • is it to create privacy?
  • what aesthetic do you want to create?
  • is it for food production?
  • will it be viewed only in summer or do you want year round interest?
  • what will it look like in the winter when leaves are gone?
  • how much maintenance are you prepared to do?


  • creates a beautiful living art
  • provides a privacy screen
  • improves air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and trapping airborne pollutants and particulates
  • reduces stress
  • enhances wellbeing
  • reduces noise
  • increases biodiversity
  • insulates buildings
  • helps to mitigate the urban heat effect.


  • living walls require regular maintenance
  • need constant fertilizing and watering
  • use a lot of water, depending on location and types of plants
  • can develop mold or moisture problems, especially if poorly designed

Design considerations:

  • weight: framework must hold the weight of soil, water and plants. Plants and a wet growing medium will be heavy and must be adequately supported.
  • wall protection: the wall must be protected with an appropriate waterproof material.
  • growing medium : needs a mixture that retains moisture.
  • drainage: a drainage system must be built into the structure.
  • irrigation: water needs to be disbursed throughout the area and drip is the best system for doing that efficiently

site conditions: what are the microclimate conditions? Consider light, shadow, wind.   Where will the wall be placed? Ideal is against a warm wall that will protect from killing frosts and enable an start early and late fall growth. Does your site provide the conditions required by the plants you want to grow?

  • maintenance: these installations require a lot of maintenance because there are so many plants in one space. pruning and pinching new growth to encourage bushiness, fertilizing regularly and checking how the irrigation is working are regular tasks. How much are you prepared to do?

Planting considerations:

  • all the desired plants must thrive in the same microclimate and require similar fertilization and watering regimes. Consider whether you want contrasting or monochromatic colours, what mixture of leaf textures and growth habits will work together. Match the growth habit of plants to the type of installation, choose plants based on seasonal cycles.

Some plants suitable to living walls:

  • ornamental climbing plants: clematis-evergreen/deciduous, honeysuckles, chocolate vine, wisteria, hops, grapes.
  • vegetables/edible plants: tomatoes, zucchini, peas, beans, peppers tayberries, thornless blackberries, chard, kale, arugula, spinach, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, parsley, cilantro & French tarragon.
  • ornamental grasses: mondo grass, heuchera, japanese spurge, carex, stipa Nassella tenuissima.
  • can use invasives because they are contained and can’t spread.
  • ferns: clumping, trailing or epiphytic ferns for shaded spaces. Licorice fern, polysticum ( sword fern), asplenium scolopendrium (heart’s tongue), platycerium (staghorn fern).
  • Indoor:  one idea is to use fabric or felt wall planters mounted on a backboard of waterproofed plywood. Use a waterproofing membrane under the felt such as PVC sheets that can be obtained at Industrial plastics to protect the wall and contain leaked water.
  • Growing media: combinations of screened leaf mold and compost mixed with coconut peat (coir fibre), peat moss, sphagnum moss, perlite or vermiculite.

Workshop:   Creations from the Garden

NANCY BISONETTE:  Basket Weaver and Gardener            npbasket

There is a host of beading and basketry materials in your garden, giving you the means to create works of Art. Basket weaving is the oldest creative art and one that cannot be accomplished any other means than by hand. When gathering materials be adventurous! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • bamboo, Daylily, Iris, rose hips, lavender, beans, corn husks, Mountain Ash, Rose petal beads, blueberries, willow, red osier, lilac, cherry, cedar, plum, maple, hydrangea, rhododendron, holly photinia, honeysuckle, hops. (any vines) shells, acorns, phygelius, allium family stems, bee balm, delphinium, bronze fennel, Joe Pye Weed (push a pin through when they are dry).

Making beads:

  • cut to desired size when green and string up to dry.

use wire, thread, dental floss, etc.

  • use a drill to make holes where required. Bit sizes you will need: 1/16 and 5/64 or 3/32

Making cordage: Cordage or rope can be made in many thicknesses depending on the material used. Regardless of size or materials the process is the same. Use only two strips and twist them individually to the left and then twist them together to the right. This makes them secure and the resulting cord will not unravel.


  • you can use any leave or stem that lends itself to twisting. Some examples are: sweet grass, daylily, tulip, daffodil, Iris, & phormium leaves.
  • harvest when plant is green just as the tips start to turn and dry by wrapping materials in newsprint and roll up, hanging away from direct sun. Before working the material soak it for about half an hour so it can be manipulated without breaking.
  • put unused dampened material in the freezer until you are ready to use it so it does not mold.

Orange peel:

  • remove pulp and cut in strips with scissors and roll up and thread onto a pin or wire.

The hole will remain when a pin is removed but a toothpick will stick.

Baskets need to be washed once a year. Dip in water – use a toothbrush to clean soiled spots and dry out of direct sun.

There is a local group called Flax to Linen Victoria that is growing and spinning flax to make fibre for weaving. Contact: The Fibrations Festival is August 16, 2015 – Fairfield Gonzales Community Place, 1330 Fairfield at Moss.

Plant Pairings at Hatley Park

Presentation:   Plant Pairings

Barrie Agar, Head Gardener at Hatley Park National Historic Site, explores effective botanical combinations.  Barrie is an entertaining speaker who will consider both intentional and accidental plant pairings, and give suggestions for developing creative frenzy your garden. The majestic castle at Hatley Park is a former Dunsmuir residence, now Royal Roads University.  The estate’s elegant gardens are extensive.


A basic colour wheel is an important tool. You can use colours close to each other on the wheel feeling confident that they go together or use colours directly opposite each other for a bolder statement. Contrasting colours may be more interesting but are not as restful as complementary colours. Whatever combinations you enjoy be sure that chosen plants like the same conditions or you will also have a combination of happy and unhappy plants. Sometimes you will come upon a happy accident that is particularly appealing, although unplanned. Make notes of these planting – colour, form, location, bloom times, etc. and plan for it next year.

Take into account background colour and texture such as fences, walls of buildings and use that in the design. At Hatley Park Barrie used a cement wall for a backdrop with yellow and orange tulips and grasses

Some effective colour combinations:

  • purple, yellow & green all derives from a planting of Heathers mixed with Thyme.
  • red tulips (plant new bulbs every year – easier and takes less time), are very effective with pink and white hyacinths
  • Grapes with a clematis( pruning group C so it gets cut down each year)
  • Primroses, with strawberries, violas or pansies.
  • Lichens and algae can be very beautiful and a feature in and of itself
  • Large planting swaths give a block of colour rather than individual detail.


Repeating patterns add interest and are especially effective when reflected from a pond. Light is a factor too and situating plants where light will highlight them at certain times of the day. Buildings, structures and shrubs all add shape to a scene. Flowers with the same shape are comforting to follow, while contrasting shapes keep your interest. Some examples:

  • Petunia and cabbage: because the openness of the petunia matches the openness of the cabbage head.
  • Calla and Persicaria have similar shapes and contrasting colours.
  • Hosta and Heuchera make a good contrasting planting.
  • Alliums grow tall and are airy with the airyness of euphorbia.
  • Impatiens and Fern are nice foliage plants with contrasting shapes.
  • Some interesting combinations to try: Calla lily, with Dodecatheon ( shooting star) and Erythronium or pink Anemone and pink Dahlia).


Mixing and matching different types of foliage: variegated plants, plants with glossy or matte finish leaves or silver foliage. Walk around the garden with a plant and place it next to other plants to see what works well.

Visit Hatley Park Gardens: Open 10 – 5 in the summer.  Web site:


Workshop:   Rhododendrons

June is a crucial time for rhododendron care.  Bill McMillan, of the Victoria Rhododendron Society and curator of the Rhododendron garden at The Horticultural Centre of the Pacific, will focus on deadheading, bud pruning, and woody pruning for improving this popular shrub’s health and appearance. He will also advise on how to handle ‘out of control’ rhodos.

Genus Rhododendron belongs to the heath family (Ericaceae).

    • Subgenus       Hymenanthes- elepidote (without scales)
    • Subgenus Pentanthera (elepidote deciduous Azalea)
    • Subgenus Rhododendron – lepidote (with scales). Can be sheared after blooming (need to catch before new growth emerges)
    • Subgenus Tsutsutsi – elepidote evergreen azaleas. Shear them when finished blooming. They lend themselves to shaping as topiary.


  • The best time to prune is early spring before flowering when you can remove 80% of growth and 10-20% after flowering.
  • The purpose is to create an attractive plant and to increase air flow thus reducing chance of disease.
  • Consider how the plant should look and go from there. In other words, don’t make dwarf trees out of large ones. Aim for a vase shaped plant.
  • Open the plant up, taking out any dead, diseased or crossing branches and prune out the lower branches in spring before flowering.
  • If you want the plant to bush out, take off leaf buds leaving the dormant buds, which will then grow several new branches.
  • Get good new growth by cutting off large branches.
  • Take off sprawling growth and never let branches touch the ground.
  • Remove leaders that are not esthetically appealing to let another leader take over the role
  • Cutting new growth in half will kick formant buds into action.

Deadheading spent flowers: This is debated but it looks better and promotes earlier growth and possibly enhances bud formation.

Move plants if they get too crowded – easy to move any time of year but not in heat of summer.

Reproduction: Grafting and cuttings, keeping in mind that subgenus Hymenanthes won’t break from old wood

and Subgenus Pentanthera does break from old wood. Cuttings require bottom heat and 100% humidity – use this year’s growth hardened a little, put in a perlite mixture with 100% humidity. You can also use a wooden box with sand in bottom with heating coils underneath and add water.

Growing conditions: Prefer acidic soil in shade. Rhodos will grow in full sun but will produce smaller flowers and leaves

Coppice: if you have a badly misshapen or otherwise out of control Rhodo, cut it off at the root – it will take a year for new growth to appear (if it survives) but worth the risk because it will become a much lovelier plant.

Watering: Ideal is 20 minutes on a drip system every 3 days

Complementary plantings:   anything that likes a shady woodland setting with acidic soil

Fertilizer: Use fish fertilizer right after they bloom.

Insect susceptibility: healthy plants are usually not bothered by insects but weak plants can be attacked by weavils. Use a spray of 10 to 1 mixture of water and Lysol in march and then in two week intervals. On large plants use tanglefoot.

Root rot: Can cause plants to die. While they like moisture they do not like standing in wet soils.

Victoria Rhododendron society meets every second Monday at Garth Homer. Next meeting is in September. See the website for more details:





Presentation:   Heathers

On May 5, 2015, Elaine Scott spoke on behalf of the Vancouver Island Heather Society.  She suggested ways to use heathers in your garden and discuss different genus and species that grow well in this area, and how to mix and match them to good effect.  Elaine provided tips on planting and maintaining heathers, and selecting other plants to add interest to a heather garden.

Workshop:   Orchids

Geoff Harwood from the Orchid Society discussed orchids and their growing habits, as well as care, re-potting and coaxing into bloom.



Presenter: Elaine Scott, Master Gardener and member, Vancouver Island Heather Society.  The Vancouver Island Heather Society meets monthly in the Cowichan Valley and holds a plant sale on the last Saturday of March in Cobble Hill.

THREE MAIN TYPES OF HEATHER: CALLUNA (Scotch heather), DABOECIA (Irish heath), ERICA (heath & winter heath).

BENEFITS OF HEATHER Deer don’t eat them; rabbits only nibble. Use heaths and heathers as mass plantings, rock garden accents, and slope covers. The many varieties provide color all year long and attract bees, butterflies and birds. Companion Plants: BERBERIS ‘Royal Burgundy’, conifers including CRYPTOMERIA japonica ‘Elegans’, CORDYLINE australis (dracaena), DAPHNE tangutica, grasses including STIPA and MISCANTHUS, RHODODENDRON, York Rose.

CULTURE:  Moist but well drained acid soil in 4 to 6 hours of sun. Plants are not drought tolerant, and not successful in xeriscapes. (note: Xeriscaping (often incorrectly spelled zero-scaping or xeroscaping) is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.)

PLANTING: Plant in Fall when seasonal rains keep stock moist until well established. Consider mature plant sizes to avoid overcrowding. Soak stock well before planting; make root balls even with surrounding soil. Add compost and bone meal to planting holes. New heather gardens look sparse but in 3 years offer full coverage.

PRUNING: ERICA do not need pruning. Prune DABOECIA & CALLUNA after flowering in September, or trim in early Spring. Use hedge trimmers on CALLUNA, cutting below old buds.

FERTILIZING: These genera need little fertilizer. Apply light sprinklings of rhodo food if necessary. Do not use manures.

PROPAGATING: Layering or cuttings both work well to produce new plants.



Keen about orchids? Join the Victoria Orchid Society which meets 4th Tuesday of the month September to June at Garth Homer Centre. The 2014 September meeting is moved to the 4th Monday at Gordon Head United Church, 4201 Tyndall Avenue.

Presenter: Dr. Geoff Haywood, biology instructor at Camosun College.

 Orchids in local stores are mainly PHALAENOPSIS, the easiest genus to grow indoors. Bred for large flowers, plants have lost the scent of original smaller forms. Provide the right moisture, light, humidity and temperature conditions for success.

WATER: Keep damp—not wet—and never let dry out. Water weekly or when pots feel light. Soak pots from top or bottom and drain well. Do not leave sitting in water.

FERTILIZER: every third week using a very weak solution of 20-20-20. Follow package directions divided by 4.

HUMIDITY: Orchids thrive in humid conditions (50% +). Indoors use mini-greenhouses/ terraria or place pots on pebbles in trays filled with water.

TEMPERATURE: Average night temperature of 18.3C (65F) degrees and day temperatures of 21.1C to 26.6C (70-80F) are best. Higher day temperatures encourage faster growth but must be balanced with higher humidity.

LIGHT: Orchids are happiest in indirect light; general rule: if foliage is dark site is too shady; if yellow, site is too bright.

BLOOMING: To encourage orchids to re-bloom provide cooler temperatures at night (12.8C/55F) for a few weeks in Fall. If an orchid absolutely refuses to bloom, place outside at night for 3 weeks in the Fall but make sure it does not freeze. Happy plants will not bloom, so stress them a little.

PESTS: Orchids are susceptible to spider mites, thrips and/or mealy bugs. A spray of 1 part Murphy oil soap, 1 part water, and 1 part rubbing alcohol works well. After blooming, cut blossom stems off at the bottom using secateurs cleaned in rubbing alcohol. Ignore instructions that come with plants to cut below last flower bud.

GROWING MEDIUM: 4 parts fir bark, 1 part medium charcoal, 1 part horticultural perlite

TRANSPLANTING: Grow in clear pots so roots are visible. Roots are covered in a spongy, foam-like covering. If roots are green they are healthy. Remove dead roots, and use same size pot or smaller, depending on how many roots are removed. Place a layer of moist, not wet, sphagnum moss in the bottom (pre-soak & squeeze), then add potting mix and top with moss.

Thanks to Sandra McConnell for creating these notes.



An Artist’s Eye in the Garden

Presentation:   An Artist’s Eye in the Garden

Allan Mandell presents his approach to composing images, the result of over 20 years’ experience as a professional photographer. Garden photographs from North America and Japan will illustrate Allan’s unique way of seeing. The photographer has worked on assignment and as a freelancer for major garden publications. Allan’s work has been published internationally for over 20 years. With a fine arts background, he also teaches photography and leads tours to Kyoto’s gardens.

Workshop:   Soil Science and Fertilizers

Dwight Pennell of Integrity Sales & Distributors offers a workshop on soil fertilizers and amendments. Dwight will cover best management practices building soil health and fertility.

Victoria’s Urban Forest

Val Schaefer, of UVic’s School of Environmental Studies, takes us on a tour of Victoria’s urban forest. The city’s remnant ecosystems are a mix of native Douglas fir (PSEUDOTSUGA menziesii ) and Garry oak (QUERCUS garryana). Indigenous genera are joined by species from around the globe planted as street trees, and a food forest cultivated by residents promoting food security. Val will summarize his 76-page book Victoria’s Urban Forest: A Walking Guide to Species of Interest, available free as a PDF at

Workshop:  Seed Sowing

Mildred Martens, co-ordinator of the VHS Fruit & Vegetable Group, presented the basics of starting plants from seed, including when to start sowing. Mildred discussed types of planting containers available, and alternatives to containers. Soil, water, heat and light requirements, plus thinning and pre-paring seedlings for transplanting out-side were also detailed.



Richard Fraser, proprietor of Fraser’s Thimble Farms, presents the remarkable virtues and amazing varieties of the genus HELLEBORUS. Hellebores are versatile and long-blooming members of RANUNCULACEAE (the buttercup family). The undemanding perennials are deer-resistant treasures.